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FACES OF POVERTY: THE WORKING POOR Agenda Define “working poor” Overview of the WDC Profile of the working poor in Racine Work readiness challenges of the working poor Case scenarios Economic impact of poverty in Racine Working poor? What does that mean?


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Agenda l.jpg


  • Define “working poor”

  • Overview of the WDC

  • Profile of the working poor in Racine

  • Work readiness challenges of the working poor

  • Case scenarios

  • Economic impact of poverty in Racine

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Working poor? What does that mean?

  • The Poverty Line: a household Income of $17,600 a year in 2008.

  • In 2008, 37.3million Americans lived in poverty.

  • 5.3 million were among the working poor – those who spent 27 weeks or more in the labor force, working full-time.

  • 16.4 million Americans who work part-time live at or below the poverty line.

  • 5.8% of women who work are considered “working poor” while only 4.5% of all men who work are among the working poor.

  • Younger workers are more likely to be among the working poor than their older counterparts, due to lower average earnings and higher rates of unemployment.

  • More than 5% of the workforce works two jobs to make ends meet, but still live in poverty.

    Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Faces of poverty

  • 70% of the working poor are White.

  • Black and Hispanic workers continue to be twice as likely as their White counterparts to be poor.

  • More than 1 in 10 people say they struggle to feed themselves.

  • Some jobs that pay poverty wage: home health aide, child care provider, pre-school teacher, janitor, and delivery person.

    Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, YouTube (video)

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Poverty in the 21st Century: Making Ends Meet

  • Voices from the Center for American Progress Poverty

    Task Force

Source: YouTube Video

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The Racine County Workforce Development Center

  • Division of Racine County Human Services Department

  • WDC budget is $10 million

  • Governed by the Racine County Workforce Development Board

  • Talent development services

  • Employs 100+ staff

  • Partnership organization

  • Two sets of customers: job seekers and employers

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WDC (cont’d)Universal Services

  • Resource Room/Career Development Center

  • Workshop Instruction

  • Career Discovery Center

  • Academic Improvement Center

  • Business Services

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WDC (cont’d)Work-Related Intensive Services

  • Dislocated Worker/Adult (WIA)

  • Seniors

  • Veterans

  • Children First Program

  • Food Stamp Program

  • W2

  • Medical Assistance

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WDC (cont’d)Average Program Profiles

  • Food Stamps

    35 yr. old Black male, HS/GED, temporary employment history with annual wages of $10,000.

  • Child Care Assistance

    20-30 yr. old female with 1 or more children with annual wages of $16,000

  • W2 (cash payments)

    25-29 yr. old female, 2 to 3 children, HS/GED, employed in retail or health care (CNA) with annual wages of $18,000

  • Children First Program

    27 yr. old Black male, w/o HS/GED, temporary employment history, with annual wages of $12,000

  • Re-training

    Male with average annual wages of $5,000

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December 08


49% Male

51% Female

Employment Status

80% Unemployed


45% White

45% Black


79% 23-54 yrs. old

Source: WDC Quarterly Surveys

Profile of the “working poor”

December 07

  • Gender

    37% Male

    63% Female

  • Employment Status

    81% Unemployed

  • Race

    38% White

    44% Black

  • Age

    78% 23-54 yrs. old

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Profile of the “working poor”

December 2008

  • Educational Level

    20% <HS/GED

    47% >HS/GED

  • Income

    54% < $10,000

    25% >$10,000 - $20,000

  • Seeking Employment

    71% - part-time, operator, assembly, skilled trades and service industry

    51% - driver’s license

    Source: WDC Quarterly Report

December 2007

  • Educational Level

    23% < HS/GED

    35% >HS/GED

  • Income

    64% < $10,00

    20% >$10,000 - $20,000

  • Seeking Employment

    54% - part-time, operator,

    assembly, skilled

    trades and service industry

    58% - driver’s license

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Poverty on a budget

  • Poverty USA Video

Source: YouTube Video

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Work Readiness Challenges of the Working Poor

  • Financial: Money to purchase goods and services.

  • Emotional resources: Ability to choose and control emotional responses, particularly to negative situations.

  • Mental resources: Mental abilities and acquired skills (reading, writing and computing) to deal with daily life.

  • Support systems: Having friends, family and backup resources available in times of need.

  • Role models: Having access to adults who are appropriate and who do not engage in self-destructive behavior.

  • Knowledge of hidden rules: Knowing the unspoken cues and habits of a group.

  • Coping strategies: Ability to translate from personal to the issue.

    Source: Bridges out of Poverty, Payne, DeVol, Dreussi Smith

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Scenario #1

Sue recently graduated with an LPN credential. She’s obtained a job in Kenosha 15 miles from her home in Racine. While attending school she lived with her mother who cared for her children, but she has moved in with her boyfriend who is also the father of two of her four children. She depends on her boyfriend for transportation to and from work and he picks her children up from school. Sue and her mom are not talking since her boyfriend insulted her mom. Sue has used all her sick days and has been late for work several times.

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Scenario #1 (cont’d)

Sue gets a collect call at work from her boyfriend. He’s unable to pick her kids up from school. Jane leaves work to pick-up her kids and returns the next day to find she has been terminated.

What work readiness challenges does Sue face?

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Scenario #2

John is a 25-year-old high school drop-out who has been accepted into a 14-week, 5-day a week, 8-hour-a-day training program. Upon completion of the program, he will have a 95% chance of obtaining employment with a salary of $13.50/hr. The only caveats are he must attend every day, must be on time and must complete the program with a passing grade.

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Scenario #2 (cont’d)

On week ten of the program, John doesn’t show up. His mother calls at 1:00 p.m. to report he was placed in custody over the weekend for failure to pay child support. Further, he will not be released until he pays arrears of $5,000.

What work readiness challenges does John face?

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Scenario #3

Mary is a 26 year old woman with three children. She is on probation for assaulting her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend and her 10-year-old son is on supervision for hitting his teacher. Mary has been on and off public assistance since her first child was born. She’s currently receiving food stamps, child care assistance, and medical assistance.

Mary has the following obligations and she doesn’t have a valid driver’s license or a vehicle:

1) She must comply with an employability plan that includes spending 32 hours a week

searching for employment.

2) She must attend monthly meetings with her probation agent and must pay $100 a month

towards $3,000 in court-ordered restitution.

3) She must attend monthly appointments with her 10-year-old son’s social worker.

4) She must attend weekly anger management counseling and family counseling sessions.

What work readiness and life challenges does Mary face?

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Scenario #4

Larry was a participant in CNC Boot Camp #2. Prior to Boot Camp, he had been imprisoned for three years. While incarcerated, he earned his HSED, passed food service certification coursework and earned a welding certificate. After his release, he held a temporary assignment for six months earning 5.75 per hour. He was concerned that his criminal background, work history, and lack of education would prevent him from carving out a stable future. In his own words, he wanted “to achieve a better life for my family as well as myself.” He also wanted “to reach my goals of being a better man and a positive role model in the community.” He was receiving FoodStamps.

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Scenario #4 (cont’d)

Larry successfully completed our CNC Boot Camp in early August 2005 and accepted an offer to work at Pioneer Products through a temporary agency earning 10.00/hr. The following he was hired permanently and has worked continuously since with the same employer. Until the recent economic downturn, he was able to schedule regular overtime. He now earns 11.50/hr and is able to provide for his family and afford some of the extras that had always been out of reach. He is not only one of our success stories, but the company hiring him likes to quote his story as one of their successes also. They recognized his potential, invested in his on- the-job training, and are pleased with his work. He meets or exceeds standards for both quality and production numbers. So far, he has not been affected by the layoffs.

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Racine Poverty Data

  • Those without a high school diploma

    • 12.6% of total population

    • 25.1% of those living below the poverty level

  • Women

    • 51.4% of total population

    • 58.5% of those living below the poverty level

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Weekly earnings of full-time workers 25 or older

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Average Annual Salary

  • Average annual salary (2005 wages)

    • Less than high school$21,268

    • High school$30,316

    • Difference$ 9,048

  • Lifetime difference

    • $362,000

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Graduation rates and reduced lunch rates

  • RUSD between 2001 – 2007

    • Graduation Rate 71 to 79 percent

    • Eligible for free or reduced lunch 60 to 68 percent

  • Wisconsin Public School Average 2001 – 2007

    • Graduation rate 89 to 92 percent

    • Eligible for free or reduced lunch 24 to 31 percent

  • Inverse relationship between low graduation and eligibility for free or reduced lunch

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Contract information

Contact Information:

Alice Y. Oliver

1717 Taylor Avenue

Racine, WI

(262) 638-6620


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